Turning 43

This week I shall turn 43.

IMG_5496.jpg

It ain’t pretty.

Spanx have become a staple.

The white glistens in my hair within about 20 minutes of dying it dark.

I’m drooping, sagging, and flopping in places that one should never droop, sag, nor flop.

Sometimes, when I walk past a mirror, I do not even recognize that the reflection is me.  Don’t even get me started on if I accidentally walk past a mirror unclothed!

I have only one ovary, just one functioning knee, and at least one trip to the restroom per night.

My eyes have been repaired, and my uterus has been removed.

My esthetician is on speed dial, I use my eye cream religiously, and I am not above miracle cures for sun spots and wrinkles.

Its true: I am not going down with much grace.

But I am going down with a fight.

I am doing everything possible to retain the health of my body as well as my brain…

I continue my yoga practice and attend a class at Barre 3 as much as my schedule and knee allow.

I strive to eat healthy and have studied and learned enough about my nutrition that when I do splurge, it is my decision and a conscience choice.

I cook and clean and read and sew and stay active, and I get plenty of sleep each week.

I say my prayers, count my blessings, and sing praises for this amazing life which I have been gifted.

I advocate and work towards a world without Alzheimer’s so that I may remember this life until its end.  And so that my children may enjoy the final years that we are together.

One way in which I am making a different in the fight against Alzheimer’s is with my membership in the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement.  I have written once before about AIM, so I will not rehash the who, what, and how, but I will revisit the why…

To begin, you need to know the basic process for affecting large-scale medical advancement in America:

-> Local events educate small groups who begin to share what they have learned which becomes part of regional conversation.

-> The small groups and those concerned across the country unite to become a large, national voice.

-> Elected officials hear the large voice and become aware of broad-based concern through advocacy efforts.

-> Legislators fund impactful research.

-> High level, innovative, creative, and critical research paves the way to treatment and cures.

Over the past 50 years, this process has provided major developments in the treatment and survival of cancer, breast health, heart disease, and HIV/AIDS though political action groups and advocacy organizations.

It is imperative that this process now take hold in the battle to end Alzheimer’s Disease, and the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement is the platform that will get it done.

There is strength in numbers.  The work that AIM has done in conjunction with local efforts through the Alzheimer’s Association has procured big budget gains in ALZ research through the NIH over the past few years.  The greater our numbers, the louder our voice, the louder our voice, the stronger the pressure, the stronger the pressure, the more likely legislators are to support, the more supportive the legislators, the more that gets approved, the more that gets approved, the bigger the steps forward, the bigger the steps forward, the sooner we have some way – some chance – of fighting this disease.

Sadly, we are still terribly underfunded and way, way behind.

So, here is my birthday wish:

Help me celebrate my birthday.

I ask that you take a quick 5 minutes and just $20, and please use this link to join AIM with me: AIM Membership Referral.

It is an annual membership, so I will be sure to remind you to renew next year…

You know, when I turn 44 and hopefully have no additional “signs of aging” to report 😉

With love and hugs,

Ashli (age 42 + 362 days)

Scan 6.jpg

Scan 5.jpg

Scan 7.jpg

Scan 4.jpg

Bethany’s Almond Grahams

A beautiful friend shared this recipe with me a few years ago, and now I will share it with you.  And you will thank us both.

It is very quick to make, very easy to serve, and very addictive to eat.  What more can one wish for or want from a scrumptious snack?

Bethany’s Almond Grahams

IMG_5449.jpg

Ingredients:

  1. 24 Graham Crackers (1 cracker = 1 long “sheet” made up of 2 squares or 4 rectangles)
  2. 2 Sticks of Butter (I use sweet cream and salted.)
  3. 1 Cup Brown Sugar
  4. 6 oz. Sliced Almonds
  5. Dash of Sea Salt

IMG_5450.jpg

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Line 2 cookie sheets with foil and place graham crackers side by side, covering the cookie sheets.

IMG_5454.jpg

  • In saucepan, melt butter and dissolve brown sugar over medium heat until it thickens and begins to bubble.

IMG_5453.jpg

IMG_5460.jpg

  • Spoon butter mixture over graham crackers and smooth to cover all. (I like using a basting brush better than a spoon, but both work just fine.)

IMG_5462.jpg

  • Sprinkle with almonds.

IMG_5463.jpg

  • Bake at 400 degrees for 5-6 minutes, or until bubbly and almonds begin to brown.

IMG_5464.jpg

IMG_5465.jpg

  • Remove from oven and sprinkle very lightly with sea-salt.
  • Let cool completely and break into odd-shaped, bite-sized pieces. (The crackers seem to lift off the foil in a big layer, and then they are easy to break apart into small pieces.)

IMG_5466.jpg

I (on the spur of the moment and at the last second, of course) have decided to make these for Halloween treats by putting 3 “sheets” worth of crumbled grahams in a bag and tying with a bow (each recipe batch with make 8 goodie bags).  I should go to the store to purchase cute Halloween baggies, but I am dead-set and determined to use up the horde-like stash of junk crap stuff mess *#@! craft supplies that I already own, so boring bags and random ribbons will have to do.  Luckily, I have found in my years of mothering that goodie bag recipients typically do not care all that much about the packaging yet almost always love the contents 😉

IMG_5467.jpg

And if I should snag a baggie to enjoy with the best Halloween book of all time and a favorite cup of tea?  Well, there is certainly no shame in that, either!!

IMG_5472.jpg

Happy Halloween…with love and hugs,

Ashli

My Home

The Montgomery crew just completed two consecutive weeks of Homecoming…the first at Angel Girl’s high school, the second at TU.

Let it be known: I LOVE HOMECOMING!!

Here is a selection of (BIG and BEAUTIFUL) mums that I have made over the years:

Scan 4

Clara Belle, Uncle Shaun, and Miss K (who was crazy enough to grow up to be a [strong and amazing] football coach’s wife!)…Stephenville High School, 1996.

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Angel Girl, Bruceville-Eddy High School, 2009.

IMG_2407 (2)

For SonShine’s date, China Spring High School, 2012.

IMG_2415 (2)

We don’t leave out the boys, either…a garter for Angel Girl’s date, also 2012.

I LOVE MAKING MUMS!!

Here are a few homecoming goodie bags from over the years:

IMG_2421 (2)

2012

IMG_9583 (1)

2014

IMG_4862

2015

I LOVE CREATING GOODIE BAGS!!

Here are my babies attending homecoming dances:

IMG_5452

Angel Girl, Freshman Year, 2015.

IMG_5469

The gorgeous Miss C with SonShine, Junior Year, 2015.

IMG_8545

Two very good looking kiddos, Sophomore and Senior Years, 2016.

IMG_5292

Sweet B and my Angel Girl, Junior Year, 2017.

I LOVE MY BABIES!!

Here are some of my favorite homecoming victories:

IMG_5772

2013

IMG_9861 (1)

2014

IMG_1359

2016

IMG_5308

2017

IMG_5376

Yesterday!

I LOVE VICTORIES!!

And parades 🙂

This year I was honored to close out TU’s homecoming festivities with a session of “recovery” Yoga With Momma Monty on the football field.  Today was a perfect, crisp, sunny morning.  There was a crew cleaning the stands from yesterday’s game, a few folks were running bleachers, and a handful of alumni/employees came to practice with me.  It was both energized and peaceful in the same moment.

By definition, “yoga” means “calming the fluctuations of the mind.”  I find that incredibly valuable in a world that is overfilled with electronics, displays, beeps, words, sounds, music, lights, and stimuli in every shape and form.  Developing the ability to calm the mind is life-changing because it filters out the noise of life and refocuses on the right now.

This moment is the most important.  And once you let this moment pass, it will never be revisited nor regained.  Therefore, living in this moment, thinking in this moment, and loving in this moment is more important than I know how to explain or describe…so just trust me: it is!

Loving this moment, this place, and this life is my idea of being HOME.

When Coach asked me to marry him, when he asked me to be a coach’s wife, he said we might move around, he said we will experience be both adoration and hatred (often by the same people from week to week), and he said it would be tough at times.

He also said that as long we were together, it would be beautiful, rewarding, and fulfilling life work. TOGETHER.

When we chose to start a family, we reiterated our motto: as long as our children are safe, we can go anywhere, and together we will thrive.

We’ve embraced that mindset for 23 seasons now.

Coach is my home.

He is my shelter, he is my safe place, and he is my strength.

You can love him or detest him.  You can praise him or slander him.  You can support him, or you can choose to not.  But you – not anyone – can ever diminish him or cause me to doubt him.  Yes, he’s a brilliant, incredible football mind.  But even more so, he is patient, and he is kind.  He is emotional and loves big, in a whole-hearted kind of a way.  He is the epitome of a wonderful provider, the definition of a family leader.  He takes care of me, and he takes care of our family; he takes care of everyone in his world.  He supports me and all my crazy ideas and projects and aspirations.  He believes in me when often I don’t even believe in myself.

We love each other deeply and with great intention.

Yes, Coach is most certainly my home.

Which means that our kiddos are my decorations.  They make my life pretty!  They add sparkle and excitement and fun and flair.  They are joyful and funny, sweet and smart, fragile and strong, sturdy and delicate, rustic and elegant.  They are go-with-the-flow, low-maintenance, and easy-casual. They are high-end and high quality.  They are absolutely priceless.  They are the most blessed bonus of this life and the sweetest of icing on my cake!

Wherever are those three, my heart and my home will also be.

So, that’s my idea of home (as well as a photographic display of why I find homecoming so very fun).  I hope your home – not the walls and floors and ceilings and windows around you, but the people who create the foundation for your life…I hope they know that they are your home, just as I hope that Coach, and our SonShine and Angel Girl, know that they are mine.

One last thing to share…I’ve never done this so I hope it works.  I use Spotify to create my yoga playlists, and today’s Homecoming Yoga list turned out really well (if I do say so myself), so here it is:  YWMM – Home

Have fun listening, and have a wonderful week ahead 🙂

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  We have also dealt with our share of homecoming defeats.  Of course, no season is rainbows and butterflies 24/7…

IMG_5419

2016, 43-7 Homecoming loss to Oologah.

But one needn’t question our resolve; our love never waivers.

Struggle brings this family closer; we find ways to build one another up.  And win or lose, I could not love my Coach and my kids – my life, my love, and my home – any more fervently, any more devotedly, nor any more passionately than I do right now, in THIS moment.

xoxox,

A.

Blame it on the Son[Shine]

We have a little joke around our house these days: blame it all on SonShine…he’s gone to college and not here to defend himself.  Of course, he knows we are only teasing.

IMG_5212

I miss him…he misses torturing his baby sister.

And yet, we also have a saying around our house: all jokes are rooted in truth.

Therefore, it only makes sense to blame my perfectly precious SonShine for the fact that I have cooked dinner at home this semester precisely ONE time.

YIKES!

Here’s the deal, though…I have done spectacularly well with his leaving home and moving into the dorms at TU.  I give him oodles of space, I never nag about schoolwork, and I don’t even “lecture” when all my maternal instincts go on full-alert sending me signals that perhaps I should simply remind him of the basics (Rule #1, slow down when you drive, be extra aware when out and about, etc…).

IMG_5178.jpg

I love that he loves college.  I love seeing his smiling face when I am on campus.  I love watching him thrive in his environment.  I love that he has found his place.  I love when he calls me out of the blue just to talk.

And yet, I miss him being at home.

I miss him most at dinnertime, and without realizing it, I just quit creating dinnertime.

Angel Girl eats anything, I eat everything, and Coach is rarely home to eat at all – at least before 9 pm.

But my SonShine, he is picky.  He likes what he likes, he loves what he loves, and that’s about it.  He is by definition finicky and difficult and has zero intention of branching out, broadening his horizons, nor expanding his palette.

He is also the very biggest, most enthusiastic fan of my cooking.  He will take my home-cooking over absolutely anything else.  As long as it’s one of my recipes and prepared by my hands, he’s all over it.  He digs into what he likes; he devours what he loves.  And he eats and eats until he absolutely cannot eat anymore.

For a crazy, southern momma like myself, there is no greater display of love!

I treasure that.  And I miss that.

And since he is not here to relish in my cooking, I just kinda stopped.

But my hard-working Coach and my beautiful Angel Girl deserve a little mothering, too, so I am climbing back on the horse and jumping back into the game…

First step: take my own advice:  plan a month of meals.

IMG_5222.jpg

It’s a [tiny] bit sad to start by filling in all the nights that I won’t need to cook due to other engagements and obligations.  One can see how transitioning from “dinner every night mom” to “mom who doesn’t cook” was so effortless!  But after all the fun stuff is penciled in, I am still left with at least three nights a week to take care of my crew.

Last night was Night #1:

Nana’s Chicken Spaghetti.

IMG_5220.jpg

IMG_5221.jpg

My theory on this recipe is that – like all the very best recipes – it stands the test of time and taste because it is easy to make, scrumptious to eat, and plenty filling.  I received the recipe from my mother-in-law when Coach and I got married almost 22 years ago.  I have also seen it nearly character-for-character in Ree Drummond’s first cookbook which leads me to believe that it has been present at many a Texas/Oklahoma church potluck over the past 100 or so years.  Needless to say, one can never go wrong with a recipe that has found a long life on the Church of Christ cookbook circuit!!

 Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups (or 2 cans) chopped, cooked chicken
  2. 1 c. chopped celery
  3. 1 bell pepper, chopped
  4. 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  5. 1 can chicken broth
  6. 4 oz. chopped pimentos
  7. 12 oz. spaghetti cooked in broth
  8. grated cheese (original recipe says Velveeta melts best)
  9. salt and pepper

IMG_5223.jpg

Instructions:

  • Saute celery, bell pepper, and onion in a small amount of oil.

IMG_5225.jpg

  • Mix with soup.
  • Add chicken, pimentos, and spaghetti.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_5227.jpg

  • Place in 9×13 pan.

IMG_5230.jpg

  • Sprinkle with grated cheese.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts.

I served Nana’s Chicken Spaghetti with fresh, steamed green beans and garlic toast.

IMG_5231.jpg

IMG_5238.jpg

I am happy to report that there were no complaints, so I suppose my cooking skills are still intact.

We did not, however, eat at the usual dinner table.  It stays set for 4, and I am no where near ready to remove a place setting.

IMG_5234.jpg

Luckily, the game table is less than 10 feet away and serves our purposes just fine.

IMG_5236.jpg

IMG_5237.jpg

Baby steps, I reckon.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS: Tonight is Layered Enchiladas…another family favorite, so I’m batting 1000 🙂